CareerCast votes professors as least stressful job
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
Communication professor Jenny Lambe said she works 50 hours per week, her time divided between teaching, research and serving as the chair of her department.
“It’s very stressful and very time consuming,” she said.
The staff of CareerCast.com, however, disagrees. The website recently ranked university professor as the least stressful career of 2013, less demanding than the work of a seamstress, medical records technician or jeweler, among other jobs.
The site recognized low-stress and enjoyable aspects of a professor’s career, such as low health risks, opportunities for growth, good pay, job security and motivated students. But according to many university professors, there are many additional factors that cause pressure.
Educational leadership professor Elizabeth Farley-Ripple said the compounding effect makes her job stressful.
“As a professor, there are three main parts of my job,” Farley-Ripple said. “I am teaching, serving the university, the city, the state and the nation and then researching.”
The different aspects of her job are all stressful in different ways, she said. The path to academic obscurity can happen quickly. If her research is poor, she would not get published, and if she’s not published she would lose her job, Farley-Ripple said.
Freshman David Hitchings said he agrees with CareerCast.com’s ranking and believes that university professor is a low-stress occupation.
“I don’t believe the job would be that stressful,” Hitchings said. “Most professors aren’t just there to be a professor, and most have TAs there to help them in teaching and grading.”
Freshman Deval Mehta said professors do a variety of work ranging from research to classroom instruction.
“There could be a professor who only teaches one class but meanwhile they have really long office hours because they have some administrative position,” Mehta said. “You could also have a professor who teaches two or three classes but has less office hours because they are focused on research or developing an experimental course.”
For Mehta, the variety is what makes the job appealing. One of his future goals is to conduct research which is far more accessible in a university setting than elsewhere since the supplies and funding for research are provided by universities, he said.
“If I were to become a professor, I would have to spend some time in the classroom which is great,” he said. “I enjoy teaching, I enjoy having company but I would still get to do research on my own time.”
Misconceptions about how professors spend their time affect their image. The independent nature and flexibility of a university teaching job is what makes it seem low stress, Lambe said.
Lambe said though it is a perk that she can go to her daughter’s activities during the day, she still has just as much work other times. Many professors are focused on their work even when they are not on campus, Farley-Ripple said.
“Because of the flexibility of our jobs, we’re sometimes teaching at night, working at night,” Farley-Ripple said. “Part of our job is thinking and writing and that happens all the time. It’s not like we just leave.”
In addition to flexibility and independence, a large perceived perk of teaching in a university setting is the tenure track, a process where professors obtain a permanent position. CareerCast.com deemed tenure a guarantee of “lifetime employment.”
While such job security is desirable for most, Farley-Ripple said gaining such a status isn’t an easy process. The first step to becoming a professor, she said, was obtaining a doctorate from a prestigious university, followed by research that must seen as a significant contribution to your field.
“You need to have published in journals and have experience teaching,” she said. “Basically other scholars must be able to recognize that you have potential and could continue doing research.”
When universities post job listings, administrators are selective in their choices, and the interview process is rigorous, Farley-Ripple said. The process includes being interviews by the administrator, students and faculty and then a faculty vote on whether or not to hire the candidate.
Lambe said she was frustrated with how long she spent on gaining tenure. She started with a six-year stint at the University of Minnesota and had not finished her dissertation when she came to the university.
Farley-Ripple said a large amount of stress is because she is educating the next generation of teachers, which could have a lasting impact. She said a professor takes his or her job seriously, then it is hard not to consider it stressful, Farley-Ripple said.
For Lambe, stress comes from the fact that there is always more work.
“You’re never done,” Lambe said. “You could do more all the time.”